Featured Image Credit: Jared Towers
By Sarah Sharkey
For the first time ever, marine biologists have witnessed a killer whale drown a calf of the same species. Although they were obviously horrified, there was nothing they could do except watch the tragedy unfold.
The incident occurred off the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island in December 2016, but it was not really described in detail until this week in their article of Scientific Reports.
After finding the pod and watching them Jason Towers, a cetacean ecologist and witness had this to say about the incidence. It seemed like the group might have found some prey, but “That’s when we realized that the calf — it was a brand-new calf in the group — it wasn’t surfacing at all. Then the male, who was unrelated to the mother of the calf, swam past the boat with the calf hanging out of its mouth, and that’s when we were really quite horrified and fascinated.”
The scene was unsettling, but important in terms of recorded behavior. After male had the calf in his mouth, the mother and her relative chase the male in a desperate attempt to save the baby. While the male’s mother attempted to protect him. Although the mother of the calf did her best and injured the male, she was unable to save her infant from his jaws.
After all of that, the male and his mother did not even eat the baby orca. Instead, they just left it. Apparently, scientists think that the male killed the baby in order to mate with its mother because after a calf dies a mother orca is able to reproduce again more quickly.
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